“We are ready to meet the White House and the Republicans halfway,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on Sunday, the day after President Trump signed four executive orders to provide Americans financial relief from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic amid stalled negotiations in the Senate.
“We were at $3.4 trillion in the bill that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats passed twelve weeks ago,” Durbin, the current Senate minority whip, told NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, referencing the House’s “Heroes Act” passed in May.
He said that “now we’ve come down to the range of two trillion.”
Durbin pointed out that Senate Republicans proposed $1 trillion in the “HEALS Act,” their version of a fresh round of coronavirus relief unveiled two weeks ago.
“We’ve asked them to come up a trillion,” Durbin said.
He made the comments reacting to an earlier interview on “Meet The Press” with White House trade adviser Peter Navarro who said both sides needed to agree on a number in between one and three trillion dollars.
“This should be easier than it is,” Navarro said on Sunday. “We’ve got two sides, one’s at $1 trillion, another’s at $3 trillion. The first thing you have to do is agree on some number in between. Once you do that, step two is figure out, within that, what you both agree on.”
“And then, what you do is you trade off, go back and forth across the table on what you want, respecting each other’s red lines,” Navarro added, stressing that “this should be easy.”
“The question we’ve had watching this unfold, the question the president has is whether the Democrats really are sincere when they come to the table,” Navarro said.
On Sunday, Durbin said that by coming “down to the range of two trillion,” Democrats have already done “exactly what Mr. Navarro suggested.”
“We are ready to meet the White House and the Republicans halfway,” Durbin said. “We’ve said that from the start.”
“We have priorities that may be different than theirs, but in terms of [the] dollar amount, we’re exactly where Mr. Navarro suggested,” he continued.
President Trump Saturday signed the four executive actions, which included $400-per-week in supplemental unemployment aid. Those who were unemployed were getting $600-a-week extra until the federal program expired at the end of July.
In addition, Trump deferred the payroll tax from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, for employees making $100,000 or less a year. The tax, deducted from workers’ paychecks, funds Social Security and Medicare. Employees would need to repay the federal government once the tax holiday ends without further action.
Host Chuck Todd asked Durbin, “Do you think Congress ought to file suit on, for instance, the payroll tax EO [executive order] or the unemployment EO?”
“This is a moral dilemma,” Durbin said in response. “We want unemployed people to receive benefits. We never wanted them cut off at all, so I’m not going to suggest that we run out to court at this point.” However, he went on to say that he thinks “some will” and that “there will be some challenges.”
Durbin then pointed out that the “fix suggested by the president is going to be a cut in the unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans.”
“It’s either going to be cut from six hundred to 400 or from 600 to zero word is right now if the president’s executive orders don’t stand,” he continued.
“The bottom line is this: These people are not lazy people. We have five unemployed Americans for every available job,” Durbin said.
He added that he had met with the families who are currently unemployed and “they’re desperate to get back to work,” noting that the majority of people who have returned to work “have taken a cut to wages below the unemployment benefits.”
“They understand unemployment is a temporary helping hand so this notion that they’re lazy and if they tried a little harder they’d find jobs just doesn’t work,” Durbin said, referring to those who have criticized boosted unemployment benefits claiming the extra $600 encourages people not to return to work.
Todd asked Durbin if he feels pressure to “cut a deal even if … you don’t like what you’re getting?”
He went on to ask, “Do you worry that the Democrats are taking too hard of a line here, and, at some point, you have to move more than you want to?”
“That’s the nature of a negotiation, you’ve got to give a little to get a little,” he said in response.
He noted that “20 Republican senators” said they will not budge on “a penny, zero, nothing at this point.”
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.